Water Portrait | AR Illustration

Water Portrait delves into a union of human form and the fluidity of water through digital illustrations, set against the backdrop of pressing environmental concerns. This series is not just an exploration of aesthetics, but a dialogue on ecological imbalances – contamination, ecological justice, and the haunting consequences of industrial residues like coal ash. Each piece, enriched with augmented reality (AR), merges the tangible and the intangible, providing an evocative visual experience that bridges the real and the surreal. By simply interacting with the illustrations via an app, audiences are invited into a deeper contemplation on the intertwining narratives of humans and water, and the urgent environmental issues that confront our world today.

Cause&Effect, 2020
Justice&Balance, 2020
Pour & Absorb, 2020
Rise&Fall, 2020
Release & Confine, 2020


The illustrations were all designed in Adobe Photoshop. For making the animation, I imported the PSD file into Adobe After Effect, and made animation with different image layers. After making the animation, I split them into 3 layers and exported the videos. Finally, I imported the videos and illustration into Artivive to make the AR animation.

Some thoughts when I was experimenting with different AR platforms:

For the beginning of the AR development for my project, I focus on which platform or techniques that could be easier and efficient for my development. As an artist, I mainly focus on what kind of interactive experience that the platforms or techniques could provide, the accessibilities, the prices, the limit of import materials and size for uploading, and whether they are friendly to those who have less AR development experience. In terms of consideration, I categorize the platforms or techniques into three groups.

First, for personal AR experience development, lots of developers recommend people to use Unity to develop an AR Application. It is totally Personalized and also the best choice to develop complex interactions like making an AR game. However, accessibility is a big problem. The audience needs to install the application on their devices to gain experience but not all people are willing to install an external application, which they cannot download from Apple Store or Google Store. Thus, it is not suitable for my need.

Second, using the software for AR development is more accessible for the audience. Although the audience still needs to have the application installed on their devices, they can download them through Apple Store or Google Store which are much more reliable. For example, Spark AR, an application I experiment with is developed by Facebook, and it is free. It allows people to create lots of interactions, face filters, AR world experience, even a simple AR game since it is programmable. Developers could public their outputs to Instagram and Facebook, and the audience could through a link directly get to the AR effect. Moreover, Artivive, another platform that I experiment with is mainly focusing on letting the artist create AR experience for their artworks. Artists could upload their image as the trigger and the videos that they hope to be shown by AR. The design of its function is very friendly to the artist and audience. For viewing the AR effect, the audience just needs to download the Artivive application through Apple Store or Google Store and use it quickly to see the effects in the galleries or museum. Artivive is not free, but the prices for me is acceptable. However, developing based on these platforms usually have limits for the uploading materials. According to Spark AR, if you want to public your AR effect on Instagram,  you should not let the project file larger than 4M and you cannot use video materials in the software. Even though you could insert jpg/png sequences, no matter how small the size of your image, it only supports including 11-13 pieces for the animation sequences if your project wants to be public. The software will automatically resize your image to fit the devices, so even you could import small images, it will not change the limits. For Artivive, it only supports uploading 3 videos in their 3D/Pro creation panel, which is also limited for people who want to make a complex 3D animation. What’s more, Artivive also has a maximum on the uploading image/video size, and it is not supported for importing 3D models. However, for this project, the functions that Artivive provides are already reached what I want. So, I finally choose Artivive.

Third, WebAR is recently emerging in the AR field. As it has no installation requirements, nearly no limits for import materials, and it is personalized, free, and accessible for most devices, it is very potential for expending the application of AR technology. Many developers are working through AR.js, which is a JavaScript library and friendly for use. The mainly required for this is coding. Since I have web development experiences, this is not a big deal for me. So I probably will explore this for my next AR project.